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Random Lugnuts: Paying Dues?

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Jeff Gordon, NASCAR What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Paying Dues?

Bill Crittenden
September 10, 2007

Opening Lap

What exactly, in NASCAR terms, constitutes "paying their dues?"

I read it again last week.  Jeff Gordon didn't "pay his dues."  So what is required to accompish this feat of "paying dues" and earn the respect of fans?

Was it that he didn't have to earn his way up to the top?  Maybe people didn't notice him on his way up, or saw how young he was, but his two USAC championships and two years putting Bill Davis Racing on the map in the Busch Series prove otherwise.

Was it how early he succeeded?  He won a couple big races in his second year, and a championship in his third year.  But there's a former Cup driver, pretty popular guy, won a championship his second full year in Cup, and no one I know has ever accused him of not paying his dues.  So it can't be how fast Gordon won races.

What is it then?  I leave it to you...tell me what you think "paying dues" means to NASCAR drivers at admin@carsandracingstuff.com, and what not paying their dues means, and next week I'll publish the best responses.

And now a word from our sponsors...

Now AT&T is back on again.  On Jeff Burton's car, that is.  Instead of forcing everyone involved into doing rather regrettable things, a comprimise was reached that allows AT&T back onto the 31 car and sets a definite end date to the arrangment.

This prevents Richard Childress Racing from having to run an unsponsored car through the Chase, and allows him time to arrange for a new sponsor before AT&T is removed permanently.

The alternative was another series of lawsuits, possibly resulting in Sprint pressuring NASCAR to take action.  Action being, from what I've heard, either coming in the form of disqualifying the 31 car or barring RCR was a whole from NASCAR competition, at the risk of losing Sprint's money if they don't.  Not only would that not have been popular, but with all the legal documents flying around NASCAR could have been hit by a lawsuit from any of the other parties involved.

NASCAR's position as "benevolent dictator" in being the sole and undisputed decider of all things in the series, as established by court precedent over 50 years ago, could have come under review.  Basically, it says that NASCAR is free to interpret its own rules and decide penalties for rules violations as it sees fit.  The loss of that protection could have been catastrophic for the sport, bringing such issues as Robby Gordon's Montreal debacle into the court or changing Tony Stewart's "bullshit" comment from a simple rule violation and fine into a first amendment case.

In any situation, all it's done is keep AT&T in the news.  Just look how much it's covered in the prerace shows and in this column.  And being in the news is free publicity, especially when public sentiment seems to be on AT&T's side.  Sprint was smart to put an end to the court battles.  That's what was damaging the value of their sponsorship, far more than Jeff Burton riding around the track with a blue circle on his hood.

Unless he wins the championship...

The Record Book

This week in stock car racing history:

  • On September 11, 2004 Jeremy Mayfield displays perhaps the best clutch performance in all of NASCAR history, winning the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 to squeak into the last spot in the first Chase for the Nextel Cup.
  • On September 12, 1956 Ricky Rudd was born.
  • On September 17, 1975 Jimmie Johnson was born.

    Random Lugnuts is a semi-regular column by the founder of The Crittenden Automotive Library.  To view other editions, go to the Random Lugnuts page.

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